Tree of Life

How it All Made Sense

If you’ve read my post on The 6 Steps to Pre-Writing a Book, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the outline method to writing a book.

In that post, I mentioned a personal experience with doing this approach for Tides of Darkness, and how it later made things make sense.

If you’ve also read The Dreaded Sequel, you’ll see what my thought process was like going into writing this book, because I wrote that when I applied the outline for the first time.

This is the story of How it All Made Sense.

I disappeared from the world for a little bit when I went to New Zealand, save some Facebook statuses and Instagram photos, either to make my friends jealous or just, you know, let people know I was still alive, as I was traveling a country by myself and all.

Part of the reason for my disappearance was because the Internet out there is hard to come by when you are traveling, and in places outside of the, like, four major cities of the country, it sucks.

I stayed with a family working on their farm, and they paid $250 a month for seven megabytes of a dial-up connection.

So things like that kind of got in the way of me having an online presence, maintaining any of the blogs I’d started up, being able to talk to people all the time, all of that, because I was just disconnected.

The other part was just that: I was disconnected.

Where the North Island meets the South

I went to New Zealand to travel and write, but I thought I was going to be doing it simultaneously.

I was wrong.

They’ve both now happened, but not at the same time.

I spent three months traveling, and during that time, I barely wrote anything except for the journal that I’ve been keeping.

I was staying with different families, moving around all the time, meeting new people all the time, getting caught in conflictions of “Should I work” or “Should I be social,” and I needed to not be shelled up in my hole the entire time.

I needed to see things and experience people.

A little burst of energy came at the end of my first round of travels, when I came home to do a surprise visit for my family to celebrate Father’s Day and my grandparents’ 65th anniversary.

My parents came down with the flu on the day I left for New Zealand, and I never really got to give them a proper goodbye, and I felt like I couldn’t have left it like that.

It was a great thing, and it gave me the time to be still and reflect for a moment, because I was back in an area I was familiar with.

Back inside of my comfort zone.

I went back to New Zealand to finish my travels, and then settle down to work.

As New Zealand lies on the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are different to ours. I knew this, of course, but I underestimated the difference between California cold and New Zealand cold.

And I’ll give New Zealand this:

It is effing cold.

Melancholy BenchThe whole time I’d been away from America, I talked a big game about how I was never coming back.

I’d found where I wanted to be.

Everything was perfect.

Nothing was ever better, I was having the time of my life moving around and working on different people’s farms and meeting a million people, and I never wanted it to stop.

Well, even while traveling reality still exists, and I had to go through the actual mental transition of “Can I travel here? Yes, but can I live here?”

The answer turned out to be no.

Wellington put me through the ringer.

A few times.

I ran away from California to get away from my thoughts of depression and failure, but as soon as I stopped moving around and settled again, they came back with a vengeance.

The first month there was great. I got a job working at the Parliament and a cafe across the street. I met somebody. I was having the time of my life. I was loving Wellington.

Then the honeymoon stage was over, in all aspects of my life.

When September hit, the weather there got shit.

Honestly, I underestimated when people talked about how bad the weather was in Wellington, and how most people go through a massive depression when they experience winter there for the first time, because it sucks.

In anywhere else I’ve ever been in my life, people talk about “the weather” when they have nothing better to talk about — but in Wellington, it’s a daily topic, usually started out with, “Dude, what the f**k is going on outside?”

It’s awful.

The depression came with the foul weather, because I stopped going outside, I stopped going on hikes, I stopped being free and felt more caged again.

During my internal confinement, one of my biggest fears happened:

My grandfather died.

Being 7,000 miles away, listening to your mom trying not to cry on the phone while she’s telling you your grandpa’s gone, and knowing you can’t give her a hug, and listening to everyone else cry in the background and not being there…


It sucks.

I was flown back for the funeral, but I was just gutted the whole time when I had to go back.

When I returned to Wellington, my relationship ended (and I learned why they say do not fall in love while you’re traveling), followed by me losing the cafe job (which, as a side note, was the position I preferred between the two).

I felt like I got sucked up into a vacuum and thrown into a tornado where I just kept getting beat by boxing gloves and couldn’t hold on to anything.

Everything just collapsed within three weeks’ time, and I was far away from home, and I was alone, and I was scared, and I didn’t know what to do.

And then, suddenly, it all made sense.

I had the itch to write one night, and I pulled out my notes… the things I had done for step two of the outline process, and I read the answers to the questions I’d asked myself, barely even a year before, about what I wanted to do with Tides of Darkness:

What Are the Main Emotions and How Are They Examined?

EmotionsI’m going to try my hardest to put as many emotions as possible into all the books, but this one in particular is going to cover fear, depression, loneliness, isolation, and sadness throughout the narrative. It’s going to be difficult to both write and read, as I want this to be a very emotion-based storyline. Amongst other challenges like writing active setting, I’m trying to make the emotions as real as possible, and these ones are pretty hard to get down into and examine.

What Themes Do You Want to Cover?

ThemesI think one of the biggest themes in this book is going to be learning how to suffer. Life sure does know how to throw curveballs at you, and it’s usually our reactions that determine the outcome as opposed to the situation itself. Coping with any type of trauma is hard, but it’s inevitable, too. While the characters may be exaggerated examples of humanity, they still need to learn how to cope. That’s really the purpose these Powers serve. They try to test the Holder constantly, which is why it is so vital to maintain control of the self.

How Do You Want to Get There?

GetThereCome December, I’m putting New Zealand planning into full force. For whatever reason, I know my experiences there are going to bring the real-life feeling to its peak. The trip isn’t about “going on vacation” or “seeing pretty things.” It’s about escaping my comfort zone, doing things I’m normally too afraid to do, living an adventurous life — experiencing everything my characters experience so I can enrich their experiences.

There’s oftentimes wonder behind fear, and that’s an aspect I’m also trying to capture, also with hopes that New Zealand can help me experience that. The world they’re in is beautifully, seductively dangerous, and I want people to be able to feel that. The revision process of this book, as well as all of the general writing process, needs to be about me pushing my own boundaries, conquering my own fears, handling my own emotions, and relating that back to the story. It cannot be some half-assed self-published fantasy novel. I need to push limits, raise bars, overcome challenges — both literally and metaphorically.

Thirteen months later, reading that, I was floored. I realized that everything I had been through in New Zealand was exactly what I hoped it would be:

I was literally living my own story.

My mind was blown.

I remembered the night I wrote out these answers — sitting in my desk chair over my kitchen counter, alone in my apartment, candles lit to help me get into the “writing mood” — and compared it to the experiences between then and now.

The small thirteen-month gap between “I’m going to put New Zealand planning into full force” and being there changed me.


I got exactly what I went to get:




The belief that I can do whatever I put my mind to, and I can make it through anything.

(The next step will be planning out how to make this the best it can be. Find out how you can help here.)

PREVIOUS: The Dreaded Sequel

Have you ever worked on a project that became much larger than you anticipated? Tell us about it in the comments!